Road tests from a variety of sources found the 2008 Cadillac to be a powerful, fine-handling SUV that does its best to forget its truck roots—except in fuel economy. In doing so with the Escalade, Cadillac has turned the SUV into something “so much more than just a rolling canvas for tacky gold badges, customized paint jobs, TV screens and wheels so large the Amish could stick them in a river to power a grain mill," Edmunds says.
The Escalade’s massive 6.2-liter V-8 engine puts out 403 hp and 417 pound-feet of torque. According to Edmunds, this provides "tremendous acceleration" for a behemoth tipping the scale at around 2.75 tons. Automobile thinks the Escalade is “blessed with one of the best exhaust notes in the business, one that woofles and burbles at idle.” Motor Trend clocks the Escalade’s 0-60 mph run at “only 6.5 seconds…for a full-size SUV that weighs just south of 5800 pounds, those are impressive numbers, to say the least.” Though the Escalade’s V-8 has technology to shut off cylinders when under light engine loads, it still only musters 12/19 mpg at best, and can be in the single digits for fuel economy in city driving.
The 2008 Escalade’s six-speed automatic transmission exhibits an unfortunate "reluctance to downshift for passing" from time to time, according to Kelley Blue Book. This tendency could conceivably be overcome through judicious use of the manual shift mode--which in the Escalade 2008 is accomplished through pushing “+” and “-“ buttons located on the steering column.
Both rear- and all-wheel-drive Escalades are available. Car and Driver reports that the 2008 Cadillac Escalade suffers from "reduced towing capacity” of only 7,800 pounds—reduced, it seems, only in comparison to the 8,000-pound-plus capacity of the similar Chevrolet Suburban.
Handling is a strong suit, so long as you remember the Escalade is a truck, not a luxury sedan. Motor Trend says, “the Escalade's adaptive suspension delivers a ride that resides more on the firm rather than soft side of the spectrum, but it still comes across as compliant, notable considering the enormous 22-inch wheels and 45-series tires.” Automobile observes, “there's more steering feel through the Escalade-specific rack-and-pinion system, and there's newfound feedback when the truck is loaded in a corner,” though “the four-wheel disc brakes are adequate-if saddled with an annoyingly touchy pedal feel.”
TheCarConnection.com’s editors are impressed with the Escalade’s handling. Acceleration is strong, and automatic-transmission shifts are impressively smooth, though on upgrades it sometimes seems uncertain what to do next. Handling isn't really trucklike, but in curves, it doesn't feel like a sportscar, either, although the steering feel is more pleasing and precise than with previous Escalades. Expect a smooth ride on good surfaces, although minor bumps will get through, especially with the larger-diameter tires and wheels.